The Burrow had been quiet and empty ever since Molly Weasley's youngest child, Ginny, had left the house to live with her husband, Harry Potter, in London. All the kids were grown up and gone, venturing out into the world to spread their wings and soar towards the unlimited opportunities waiting for them out there. Molly knew she should feel proud of her children, each armed with the talent, knowledge, and skills that had helped them to succeed in their respective areas. However, she'd be lying if a part of her didn't want to let them go, forever seeing them as her little tykes whom she would smother with all the motherly love she could ever give.
She could still count the years since the chatters had gone with the wind; the children had moved out of the Burrow to the world beyond, just like how birds would leave the nest and fly towards the blue sky of freedom. All that was left was the enchanted family clock that showed the status of her loved ones at all times… except for one. Fred's hand has been permanently stuck at 'lost' since his death at the Battle of Hogwarts many years ago, and she couldn't bring herself to remove it from the clock. It was a loss she could never come to terms with, even after such a long time; the hand was the only thing left in the house to remind her of Fred, that he was never really gone.
Fred's clock-hand wasn't the only thing that left a gaping hole in Molly's chest. Her eyes glanced at another hand that would shatter her fragile heart into a million pieces. People would die one day, she knew that, but logic did nothing to calm the despair eddying inside her trembling body. She wasn't sure if she could go on like this to watch someone dying in front of her again, especially when the person was one she loved so deeply.
Closing her eyes to fight back her tears, she finally turned her back on the clock—at the clock-hand of her husband, Arthur, pointing at 'mortal peril'.
The high-pitched creaking echoed up the staircase as Molly climbed the steps towards Arthur's bedroom, balancing a tray of food cautiously with her wand. Her hands were shaking too much to carry it manually; she had to grip the handrail to steady herself, fearing that she would fall off if she took a misstep. Maybe it was the old age that made her breathless when she finally reached the door to Arthur's room, or maybe it was her welling sadness that tired her out while trying to suppress the feeling.
Taking a deep breath, she raised her free hand to knock on the door.
"I'm coming in, Arthur."
The door opened to the view of an old man seated in a rocking armchair, who turned his head to Molly when she entered the room with the food tray. The wrinkles on his face deepened as the corner of his cracked lips lifted up into a smile before the lips parted to croak out a word, "Molly."
Arthur Weasley was beyond recognition from how he used to look like. Aging had taken a serious toll on the former Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office: his signature bright red hair was gone, and only a few wisps of white strands remained on his almost bald head. His once tall, lean build was now reduced to a shrunken, bony figure; his fair complexion had lost its original luster, now just wrinkled skin that appeared dry and brown under the setting sun that streamed through the open window.
"Merlin's beard, Arthur!" she exclaimed, setting down the tray hurriedly on the bedside table and rushed towards the rocking armchair. "How many times have I told you to stay in bed? You shouldn't be moving around so much—"
"My dear Molly," her husband interrupted; even when his declining health was eating away everything she loved about the man before her, it did not reach the twinkle in his blue eyes. "Whatever that is coming will come, whether we like it or not. I know." Molly instantly grabbed a shaky hand that poked out from under the blanket on Arthur's lap. Before she could open her mouth, her husband stopped her with a hacking cough before he went on, "The time is near… isn't it?"
"No, Arthur. Please. Don't say it."
He shook his head slowly and continued to smile. "I'm… dying."
Molly was finding it harder to fight back the tears in her eyes, her vision blurring as the fear of losing Arthur threatened to overwhelm her. No, she wanted to scream, but nothing came out except quiet sobs. No, you can't do this to me!
"Look at me, Molly."
She wiped away her tears and complied, her brown gaze locking with Arthur's blue ones. The very thought of losing her husband to Death terrified her, so why did he seem so peaceful, brave, with no ounce of fear in the eyes that still shone with vitality, even as his body was deteriorating with each passing day?
"Don't look… so sad," he wheezed, lifting his wizened hand slowly to touch Molly's cheek. "Death is inevitable. It's something we must accept instead of running away from it, and fearing the unavoidable won't change anything."
Molly felt his finger slipping off her jawline, and she grasped his hand in hers. "But, Arthur…"
"If anything, the Battle of Hogwarts taught us many important lessons. Harry and Ron have told me a little about… Voldemort." There was bitterness in the last word he uttered. "He never knew, understood, and felt true love. He believed that power was everything in the world… that love was what made people weak. He thought that love would drive people to death and that it was pathetic, so he was afraid of dying. He closed his heart and committed numerous horrifying crimes… to run away from all the things he didn't want to face."
"He was wrong."
"Yes," Arthur breathed, and his voice was becoming softer—weaker. "Power and love… are part of the same double-edged sword. Power can make us physically stronger, but our hearts susceptible to temptations. Love can drive us into despair when it's lost, but it can also strengthen us beyond our imagination if we understand its meaning and value in our life.
"Don't blame yourself for Fred's death, Molly. He's gone from the world, but he is forever in here."
Arthur's hand slithered out of Molly's grasp and pointed a trembling finger at her chest.
"And I… will always be in your heart."
Then his hand landed with a thud beside him on the armchair seat, and his wheezing voice was barely more than a hoarse whisper.
"Goodbye… my love."
Molly let out a sharp gasp at her husband's last rattling breath, and the light in his blue eyes went out with the final heartbeat in his chest.
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